Karen Randazzo (Ms. Razz)
Helping Students Overcome Test Anxiety | Blog Post | MsRazz ChemClass
Updated: May 6
Hello! I hope you had a wonderful week.
It is crunch time for us AP teachers, and my week was FILLED with nonstop administration of cumulative exams - 12 class periods worth to be exact! While the recording of video content had to take a backseat this week, I still wanted to connect with you to offer some thoughts on the topic of test anxietyーparticularly with respect to offering tips for how I try to help my students overcome the stresses of taking high-stakes exams.
Assessments are part of everyone's life. Regardless of which career path a student chooses, an assessment will be used to measure their level of competency. If you are reading this post, you probably had to take a content-related competency exam before beginning your teaching career. Until that test was passed, you wouldn't be able to get your teaching certificate. Similarly, a student’s world can come to a grinding halt over anxiety about a grade needed to get into a specific college.
More and more I am seeing that students struggle with the ability to self-regulate their emotions and quite simply, 'talk themselves down' when they're feeling pressure about taking an assessment. The coping mechanisms just aren't there, and over the years, I've ramped up my efforts to help students work through this.
Here are three strategies that have worked well for my students:
#1 - Metacognition: Metacognition is a powerful tool for students to reflect on their learning. Students should be encouraged to think about what studying looks like and how they can reflect on their own understanding of content. You can do this in a variety of ways. One of the most simplistic ways I use this with my students is by preparing a weekly ‘Metacognitive Monday’ slide on my daily agenda. Typically this slide offers a piece of advice for a research-based study technique or a link to a form where students can reflect on their understanding of content. Don’t have a daily agenda? No problem! Try distributing the form to your students as bellwork or do now. Your form doesn’t have to be fancy. Just including a quote (such as the one below) and having your students reflect on its meaning can make a big difference in how they see learning (and failure!).
#2 - Meditation: This one is a personal favorite. Before each and every major assessment I do some deep breathing exercises with my students. We start by closing our eyes. I usually will say something like, “Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground, feel the support of your chair…” etc. Then I use my favorite phrase, “Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.” I speak slowly so that students can feel their breath. We inhale and exhale twice, so the entire process takes less than a minute. If you aren’t comfortable with creating your own meditation or deep breathing exercises, you might want to consider using this simple breathing exercise from Calm. I also really like this one from Headspace. Ever since I started doing this, students say they wish all of their teachers began their assessments this way.
#3 - Administer more assessments!: This one probably sounds counterintuitive, but this is actually the best way I have found for students to feel more comfortable in a testing scenario and help ease their test anxiety. Who says you need to wait until test day to administer a test? Consider administering a practice test in a similar testing environment. Personally, I don’t call them practice tests; instead I refer to them as formative assessments. These can be as simple as a half-sheet assessment with 1-2 questions, or a full length assessment. I use shorter assessments on a weekly basis to help students uncover misconceptions, inaccuracies with content, and reflect on what they should do next to prepare for their summative assessment. This way, students know what they don’t know BEFORE they get to their high-stakes assessment.
So there you have it, three easy ways to help your students with test anxiety. As always I welcome your comments. Have you tried any of these strategies? Will you try one or two of them now after reading about them? What works well for your students?
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Thanks so much for reading.
Want to collaborate with other chemistry teachers? Share best practices in my FB group.
Razz Fan Mail:
Karen Randazzo | PO Box 203 | Belle Mead, NJ 08502